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Google’s constant monitoring of user’s locations has come under scrutiny as it leverages this data for various purposes, including refining its maps and location-based services, introducing new features, and tailoring ads to individual preferences. Even conversations about products users plan to buy can trigger a barrage of related ads across the internet. While Google claims not to track users who disable location tracking, recent legal actions suggest otherwise.

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In a lawsuit brought against Google, the company faced allegations of deceptive practices in how it tracked and stored users’ location information. As part of the settlement, Google will pay $93 million, equivalent to approximately Rs 7,000 crore, according to the media reports.

California’s Attorney General Takes Action

The lawsuit originated from California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, who accused Google of misleading consumers about the extent of control they had over their location data. The substantial payout emerged from an exhaustive investigation into Google’s data management practices. Bonta expressed his dissatisfaction, stating, ‘Our investigation revealed that Google was telling its users one thing – that it would no longer track their location once they opted out – but doing the opposite and continuing to track its users’ movements for its own commercial gain.

Deceptive Data Management Practices Exposed

The allegations revolved around a stark contrast between Google’s claims about managing user location data and how the Attorney General’s office asserted they handled it. Google allowed users to disable their ‘location history’ while reassuring them that this action would prevent location tracking. However, according to the Attorney General, Google still collected and stored this data from other sources, such as a user’s ‘web and app activity’ tracker, which remained enabled by default. Furthermore, Google was accused of misleading users regarding their ability to avoid location-targeted advertisements.

Google’s Response and Commitments

Although Google does not admit to the allegations, the company has opted to settle and has committed to several additional obligations in addition to the $93 million payment. These commitments include enhancing transparency regarding their location tracking practices, providing users with advance notifications before using location data for targeted advertising, and seeking approval from Google’s internal privacy working group before implementing significant privacy-related changes.

Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesperson, explained, ‘Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this matter, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,’ according to media reports.

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